Yemeni government signs power-sharing deal
BBC News and the Guardian report that Yemen’s government has signed a power-sharing deal with separatists in the south of the country that is intended to end months of infighting. The two are meant to be part of an alliance with a Saudi-led multinational coalition that has been battling the rebel Houthi movement since 2015. But in August, separatists supported by the UAE seized control the city of Aden from Saudi-backed government forces. The UN said the deal was an important step towards ending Yemen’s civil war.
Sky News, BBC News, ITV News, Guardian, Independent, FT, Telegraph and The Times report that Iran is to start injecting uranium gas into more than 1,044 centrifuges as it moves away from a landmark nuclear deal agreed in 2015. The country’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said it would take place at its underground Fordow centre as “part of our fourth step to reduce our nuclear commitments to the deal.” Uranium gas injection can allow enriched uranium to be produced – currently banned at the site under the pact.
The Guardian reports that a former Iranian beauty queen has spoken of the toll on her mental health as she enters her fourth week stranded in a Philippines airport, fearing that she will be deported to Tehran and executed for criticising the Iran regime if her asylum claim fails.
The Guardian and Telegraph reports that Staffan de Mistura, the former UN special envoy to Syria, has said he quit the post last year because he realised Bashar al-Assad had won the territorial civil war in Syria and he could not bring himself to shake the president’s hand. He also said he was furious when Russia and the US reached a deal in autumn 2016, before the US election, to de-escalate the civil war by grounding the Syrian air force and separating al-Nusra terrorist forces from the Syrian opposition – a deal that fell apart after a Syrian army attack on a UN aid convoy killed more than 20 people.
The Guardian and Independent report that Israel’s highest court has upheld the government’s decision to deport the local director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) for his alleged support for a boycott movement, ending a long-running landmark case that questioned the country’s ability to expel its critics. Omar Shakir, a US citizen, will now have 20 days to leave Israel and the Palestinian territories or face deportation, his lawyer said.
David Gardner argues in the Financial Times that “protests in Iraq and Lebanon threaten an Iran-backed status quo.” He writes: “It has long been clear that Donald Trump’s policies and postures in the Middle East have an almost preternatural capacity to backfire. His sudden and messy withdrawal from north-east Syria last month has left Vladimir Putin’s Russia holding the ring — with an undeserved but understandable reputation for being more reliable than the US — and awards Turkey its third enclave in northern Syria.”
The Jewish Chronicle reports that schools across Israel honoured immigrants this week as part of Israel’s newest national holiday. Aliyah Day was added to the calendar after a grassroots group of Tel Aviv immigrants decided that Israel should have a day dedicated to Israel’s “ingathering” of Jewish people. “It all started when I was hanging out with friends and we said ‘this would be cool,’” Jay Shultz, the president of the Am Yisrael Foundation, told the JC.
The Telegraph reports that WWE wrestlers were “held hostage” in Saudi Arabia and stopped from boarding flights back to the US in a row over payment, according to reports. Nearly 200 stars of the Smackdown brand and their entourage were ordered to wait on the tarmac for six hours at Riyadh International by Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, The Mirror reported.
Advanced Israeli missile potentially fell into Russian hands: An advanced Israeli interceptor missile, part of the “David’s Sling” missile defense system, reportedly fell into Russian hands after landing inside Syria last year, Ynet reported. David’s Sling was activated on 23 July 2018 against two incoming surface-to-surface missiles fired at Israel from Syria. One interceptor missile self-destructed after the incoming missiles were not deemed to be a threat, but the second interceptor allegedly landed inside Syria with only minor damage. Syrian military forces reclaimed the projectile and then transferred it to Russia to be reverse engineered. David’s Sling is the new middle tier of Israel’s aerial defence system, meant to protect against intermediate-range missiles and rockets, and had never before been used prior to this incident. The original report was published by a major Chinese online news site.
Direct premiership vote floated: All the Israeli media report that Likud party whip Miki Zohar said Benjamin Netanyahu may be open to re-introducing a law for direct elections for the Prime Minister as well as an election for the Israeli Parliament. New Right leader Ayelet Shaked also expressed support for the idea, first floated earlier this week by Shas party chair Aryeh Deri as a solution to the ongoing political deadlock. But in a statement later in the day the Likud rejected the reports and said Netanyahu was not pushing for such a change in the electoral system. Blue and White, for its part, called the idea of a direct vote “pathetic spin” by the Likud. In the 1990s and early 2000s Israel had a separate vote for Prime Minister, but the system was subsequently scrapped after it failed to resolve the underlying problems in the Israeli system and led to more smaller parties being elected creating large unwieldy coalitions. A separate report in Globes said secret back channel talks have been taking place between Netanyahu and Gantz for weeks and are at an advanced stage, with Blue and White apparently willing to accept Netanyahu could go first in a prime ministerial rotation deal until he is indicted and suspends himself from the post.